FLSA. The last month was particularly hard on restaurants and bars. First, a restaurant owned in part by celebrity chef Mario Batali agreed to a $5.25 million FLSA settlement. The case arose from a number of his New York restaurants, including Babbo, Casa Mono, the Spotted Pig and Tarry Lodge. Servers at these restaurants sued in 2010, claiming violations of the FLSA including allegations that the restaurants were keeping up to 5% of wine and alcohol sale gratuities, failed to pay minimum wage, and other allegations. Eleven waiters and bartenders were the named plaintiffs in this collective action.
Title VII. In Chicago, 19 women filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Tilted Kilt, which has a location in Birmingham. The suit alleged that the managers created a "sexually hostile, offensive, humiliating and degrading work environment" that was "frequent, severe, on-going and lasted" the entire time the plaintiffs worked there. The lawsuit contained almost 30 examples of improper conduct, including making comments such as "You don't know what I'd like to do to you" and sticking"g a straw full of water inside outfits, and saying "I'm trying to get your panties wet." The parent company of the Tilted Kilt said that the location in Chicago is an independently franchised business. Allegations also include retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In Florida, the EEOC announced a settlement against the Hurricane Grill and Wings Restaurant in West Palm Beach for $200,000. The lawsuit alleged that the company allowed a class of female servers to be sexually harassed by a customer, who happened to be a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy. The suit alleged that the servers were "frequently grabbed on their breasts and buttocks and humiliated by sexual innuendo, as well as direct invitations to join the harasser and his wife in menage a trois." The EEOC issued a press release, saying, in part, that "A high percentage of sexual harassment charges are filed by women in the restaurant industry and this decree will serve to protect the rights of a particularly vulnerable segment of the work force."
Practice pointer. As pointed out by the EEOC, the restaurant industry has a large number of complaints concerning sexual harassment, as well as FLSA problems. Any employer in this industry must be vigilant to make sure the employees are treated properly and paid according to the law.
Title VII: Religious Discrimination. The EEOC announced a $125,000 settlement with the Menorah House, a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Boca Raton, Florida. For at least 8 years, the Menorah House had accommodated 2 Seventh-Day Adventists by allowing them to not work on Saturdays. Management instituted a policy that required all employees to work on Saturday, regardless of their religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit on behalf of the 2 employees after they were fired because their religion prohibited them from working on Saturdays. According to the EEOC press release, Title VII "prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' sincerely held religious beliefs so long as this does not poses an undue hardship."
Workers' Compensation. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals issued a decision last week involving the right of a workers' compensation carrier to recover funds from a third party tortfeasor. Mongham was injured at work, and recovered a "large amount" in workers compensation benefits. He also sued a number of third parties, alleging that they caused the accident, and entered into settlement agreements with the third parties, in which they agreed to pay a lump sum and purchased an annuity to pay Mongham over time. The employer asked the trial court to recover from the settlement funds the amount it paid in workers' compensation benefits. The trial court ordered that they employer receive an initial lump sum payment, and a portion of the annuity payments until it was fully reimbursed. On appeal, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that an employer's right to recover from third party funds has priority over the employee's right to recover those funds, and order that the employer should receive the entire monthly payments until it was fully reimbursed.